Gov. Jack Dalrymple was in Grand Forks today to sign more than $120 million in legislation that will help create jobs and opportunities in an effort to grow and diversify North Dakota's economy. Dalrymple signed Senate Bill 2018, the North Dakota Department of Commerce budget bill, and highlighted the bill's appropriation of $5 million to develop an Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) test site in North Dakota.
The Governor signed the bill during a news conference at the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center in Grand Forks. He was joined by University of North Dakota (UND) President Robert Kelley; Al Palmer, director of the Center for UAS Research, Education and Training at the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences; legislators and other local officials.
"This legislation will have a real impact on Grand Forks and the region, especially with the investment in solidifying North Dakota's role as a leader in Unmanned Aircraft Systems," Dalrymple said. "Key items in this bill, as well as other bills passed during the 2013 Legislative Session, will further grow and diversify our economy and create exciting opportunities for Grand Forks and the surrounding area."
Highlights of the legislation as it relates to the Grand Forks area include:
-$5 million to develop a UAS Airspace Integration Test Site in North Dakota. This includes $1 million that can be used as the state is pursuing designation as a test site and $4 million that becomes available once the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) designates the state as a test site. Last week, the North Dakota Airspace Integration Team submitted an application to the FAA to become a pilot test site for integrating UAS into the National Airspace. Six locations are projected to be chosen by the year's end.
-$1.5 million for base retention grants in Minot, Grand Forks and Fargo. This includes $500,000 each for efforts supporting the Grand Forks Air Force Base, Minot Air Force Base and Fargo Air National Guard facility.
-$2.5 million for an Enhanced Use Lease project to help diversify the Grand Forks County employment base and provide financial and operational support to the Grand Forks Air Force Base. This funding is contingent upon an enhanced use lease agreement being signed and a commitment by private sector business to locate in the development.
-Approximately $2 million to support Innovate North Dakota and grants to entrepreneurial centers that assist startup businesses.
-$12 million to fund Research North Dakota (RND), which will grow and diversify the state's economy by commercializing technologies. The RND program will be available for research, development and commercialization projects related to UAS.
Dalrymple focused on the importance of North Dakota being named a UAS test site and how such a designation would impact Grand Forks and the state. He referenced Teal Group's 2012 market study that estimates that UAS spending will almost double over the next decade from current worldwide UAS expenditures of $6.6 billion annually to $11.4 billion, totaling over $89 billion in the next 10 years. He also cited the AUVSI's "The Economic Impact of UAS Integration into the U.S." report that finds that in the first three years of UAS integration, more than 70,000 jobs will be created in the U.S. with an economic impact of more than $13.6 billion.
The FAA will designate six UAS test sites by Dec. 31 of this year. North Dakota has submitted all seven volumes of its proposal to the FAA, with the final volume submitted on May 3.
During the bill signing, the Governor also applauded other legislation that was passed during the 2013 Legislative Session that will benefit Grand Forks and the region. He highlighted the $178.5 million in capital improvement projects for the state's colleges and universities, including $60,450,000 for a new UND Medical School Building along with approved borrowing authority for an additional $62 million, and $11,400,000 to renovate the UND Law School.